Jetties rock!

Ask any angler who fishes them regularly and you’ll learn that jetty systems are arguable the most consistently productive near shore ecosystem on any coast.

The “rock” comment is a bit of an intended pun, and here’s why: Underwater research shows that during certain times of year, breeding-sized red and black drum gather along jetties in such large numbers it sounds like a heavy metal concert is taking place below the surface. At times it’s so loud that anglers can hear the commotion above water.

“The importance of jetties on the coast cannot be underestimated,” said Capt. Guy Stansel of Hackberry Rod and Gun.

“All fish are drawn to structure in one way or another, and the Gulf is pretty much barren of natural structure near the shore. Jetties give fish giant chunks of structure to cling to. The best part for anglers is these fish are within reach of just about anybody.”

Species, sizes and number of fish relating to jetties varies throughout the year. Right now, the main attractions are big bull redfish.

“The fall bull red run makes jetty fishing exciting,” Stansel said. “There are a lot of big reds schooled up out there and an angler can be into fish all day long.”

If anglers find schooling bulls, a baitfish imitator with some “flash,” like a spinnerbait or spoon, is a good lure choice. Stansel says two good options are the Redfish Flasher spinnerbait and Who Dat Spoon from Bomber Saltwater Grade. Both cast maximum distance and can be retrieved at any depth.

Deep holes and boat passes are the best spots to find the bulls, as well as big sand trout.

Sand trout are increasing in numbers in the Gulf of Mexico due to restrictions on shrimping related bycatch and an overall decrease in shrimping effort. Anglers are again specifically targeting sand trout due to their superior taste and because most states do not impose a bag or size limit on them.

A Twin-Tail Shrimp or Mud Minnow rigged on a 3/8-ounce jighead and bounced along the bottom in these areas is a killer presentation for sand trout. Sometimes, adding a small piece of shrimp adds the extra appeal that turns lookers into biters.

Another great location for sand trout at the jetties are around the marker buoys in the channel. The most productive tactic for these fish is to get over them and present a vertical presentation with a Nylure Jig or the same soft plastics mentioned above. Jig the lures slowly and expect strikes on the drop.

Another gamefish you’ll find congregated around jetties this time of year are sheepshead. They can gather anywhere on the rocks but prefer areas with washouts coming from the channel to the outer side, or spots with heavy barnacle concentration.

The best method for catching them is using a ¼-once round-head jig rigged with a small piece of shrimp and fished vertically.

Sheepshead are notoriously sneaky. They can pick bait off a hook in an instant and leave you none the wiser. Light bites, as well as the fish’s hard, bony mouth, mean that a light braided line is best for maximizing your sheepshead fishing. A light braid is more sensitive and prompts stronger hooksets.

Fishing a live shrimp under a popping cork like the Paradise Popper X-Treme is a common technique for jetty sheepshead. In clear water, however, these fish can be line shy, making the use of a fluorocarbon leader under the cork essential to success. Fluorocarbon is virtually invisible as well as low stretch, which retains the braid’s sensitivity and hook-setting abilities.

Water clarity, in fact, is one of the most important considerations when fishing for any specie along the jetties.

Trout in particular are sensitive to changes in water clarity and always prefer it to run sandy green to clear in color. If you are not able to see your lure down past 18 inches, the trout fishing is going to be tough. Redfish are not quite as picky, but too much color turns them off as well. Ditto for sheepshead, snook and many other jetty dwellers.

While there’s no guarantee to predicting water color before arriving and simply looking, clarity around jetties depends mainly on wind and amount of shipping traffic. If the area has seen several days of strong wind blowing into the jetties, chances are it will be murky.

Wind, however, often creates murky water on the bay side of the jetty, while the inside shipping area remains clear. Shipping traffic churns the water on the inside of the walls. There are also times of year when freshwater flow from rivers murky bay water, while strong incoming tides from the Gulf bring in clear water. Always look for the clearest water at jetties no matter what you are fishing for.

Jetties represent the most attractive inshore structure for many types of gamefish, but there are some safety considerations. Whether fishing from a boat or from the jetties themselves, slick rocks, big waves and boat/ship traffic can turn a day of great fishing into a tragedy.

Anglers using small boats should be extra cautious. Shipping traffic is one of the most serious threats, with the occasional speeder or distracted captain. A large swell wake pushed by an oil tanker can put a small craft on top of the rocks in a heartbeat.

Weather can change quickly and seas can quickly get out of hand. Always give yourself leeway and leave before it gets too rough.